The media consultant who created the winning ad campaigns for Paul Wellstone and Jesse Ventura will be doing Ralph Nader this fall. Bill Hillsman of Minneapolis, whose offbeat ads helped send Paul Wellstone to the Senate in 1990 and Jesse Ventura into the Minnesota governor's seat in 1998, will get another chance to pull disaffected voters back to the polls for a maverick candidate.
Wellstone was a college professor with little name identification and not much money in 1990 when Hillsman created a commercial called "Looking for Rudy," in which Wellstone wanders into the campaign office of incumbent Republican Sen. Rudy Boschwitz to dramatize Boschwitz's refusal to debate. The two-minute ad aired only once, but it generated a torrent of media coverage.
Hillsman also worked with a shoestring budget in Ventura's 1998 campaign, where two TV spots were a hit with voters -- and again got plenty of free publicity. One ad showed two kids playing with a Ventura action figure who fends off the "Evil Special Interest Man" doll. Another shows Ventura bare-chested in the pose of Rodin's "The Thinker" while an announcer reels off his credentials as a father and volunteer football coach.
Hillsman said his ad strategy for Nader has been mapped out and added jokingly that he's already come up with a campaign slogan: "Bush and Gore make me want to Ralph."
Nader visited Ventura who, in a July 14 appearance with Nader, said the Green Party candidate and running mate Winona LaDuke, as well as the Reform Party nominees, should be included in the presidential debates this fall.
Nader, who expects to be on the ballots of at least 46 states, said he will push for a fair marketplace, a clean environment and health care reform. He proposed a "credit card bill of rights" to establish criteria for fairness, accuracy and completeness in solicitations for credit card customers. He also called for an overhaul of the nation's agricultural policy, saying the 1996 Freedom to Farm Act has only hurt family farmers and rural communities. In an earlier appearance in Los Angeles he called for more spending on children and a guaranteed minimum income for families in a "Marshall Plan for our nation's poor children."
The Minneapolis Star Tribune noted that Nader has cited Ventura as an example of what can be done. At the Green Party national convention last month, Nader told delegates that if the Republicans and Democrats think he is joking about his chances of winning, they should talk to the disaffected Minnesota voters who made Ventura their governor.
Ventura endorsed some of Nader's policies, such as legalizing hemp, reforming campaign finance and easing ballot access for new parties. "Ralph Nader brings to the forefront issues that the Democrats and Republicans won't touch with a 10-foot pole," Ventura said. He stopped short of an endorsement, saying if one came, it probably won't be until at least September, but the Associated Press noted that he has said he will not back a Democrat, Republican or Pat Buchanan. Asked whether he would campaign for Nader on specific issues they had discussed, Ventura grinned. "I think I'm doing that now, aren't I?'' he said.
Nader on July 10 called on the CEOs of six companies to respond to steelworkers' requests for improved labor conditions. Nader was informed of the workers' grievances by members of the United Steelworkers of America, who have been fighting for improved labor conditions at several companies. "Labor grievances&endash;whether rooted structurally in such laws as the Taft-Hartley Act, along with other restrictive regulations, or in plant by plant disputes&endash;are receiving too little attention in this Presidential campaign year," said Nader in six separate letters addressed to the CEOs.
Nader on July 11 urged NAACP members to join his movement, saying Democrats are taking them for granted. "When you are taken for granted, you are being taken,'' he said.
REFORM INFIGHTING CONTINUES. The Reform Party mailed nearly 900,000 ballots for its national primary election, with presidential candidate Pat Buchanan submitting more than half of the voting roll and rival John Hagelin charging that Buchanan inflated the list with Republican supporters without their knowledge or consent. With party founder Ross Perot maintaining a low profile, Vincent J. Schodolski of the Chicago Tribune counts at least five factions on the 10-member Executive Committee, which voted 7-2 on July 12 to allow Hagelin to examine the nearly 500,000 names Buchanan submitted.
Hagelin, a physicist who also is presidential candidate of the Natural Law Party and teaches at Maharishi University in Fairfield, Iowa, is supported by many of the original Reformers who resent Buchanan's heavy-handed takeover of the party or don't like Buchanan's emphasis on social issues.
Hagelin agrees with Buchanan on trade, that Republicans and Democrats have allowed foreign trading partners to gain too much leverage over the US market, leading to a loss of jobs in this country. Hagelin also supports radical reform in the nation's education system, including the use of school vouchers, greater local control and the downsizing of the Department of Education. On health care, he supports a diversion of federal health care funds into preventive care.
Buchanan submitted 500,000 names of people who supposedly signed petitions to put him on state ballots. Each of them, along with 24,000 who signed Hagelin petitions and other Reform Party members, were sent a ballot for the mail-in vote to select the Reform nominee, who will be entitled to $12 million in federal campaign funds. A two-thirds vote at the party's convention Aug. 10-13 in Long Beach, Calif., could overrule the public vote, and Buchanan's forces have been working to gain control of the convention. On July 7 they forced the removal of Russell Verney, the former national chairman and Perot confidant, as co-chairman of the credentials committee, which will decide which delegates are seated at the convention. Verney, who was ousted from the national committee by the Buchanan-dominated Texas convention in June, was replaced on the national convention committee by a Buchanan supporter in what Donna Donovan, the party's press secretary and a Verney backer, called a "Buchanan jihad.''
The party is on the ballot in 20 states, although Buchanan reportedly has placed his own name on other states as an independent candidate.
FBI'S E-SNOOP TECHNOLOGY. The FBI has deployed an automated system to wiretap the Internet, giving authorities a powerful tool that can scan millions of email messages a second and raising concerns among civil libertarians and privacy advocates about how it might be abused. The new computer system, dubbed "Carnivore" by the FBI because it rapidly finds the "meat" in vast amounts of data, was developed at FBI computer labs in Quantico, Va., and has been used in fewer than 100 cases since it was secretly launched last year, the Wall Street Journal reported on July 11. Civil liberties groups said the new system raises troubling issues about what constitutes a reasonable search and seizure of electronic data. In sniffing out potential criminal conduct, the new technology also could scan private information about legal activities. "Once the software is applied to the [internet service provider], there's no check on the system," said Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), who sits on a House judiciary subcommittee for constitutional affairs. "If there's one word I would use to describe this, it would be 'frightening."'
BUSH AIDE MEDDLES IN MIDEAST. Continuing a Republican tradition of election-year meddling in foreign affairs, one of George W Bush's foreign policy advisers warned the Israeli delegation to be prepared to walk out of negotiations on the eve of talks between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, according to the New York Post website. The website on July 12 quoted a message received by Barak yesterday from two of his emissaries, Yoram Ben-Ze'ev and Yossi Alpher. The two men said Richard Perle, a former assistant secretary of state, "asked us to send a clear message" to Barak that it would be a "catastrophe" if the Jerusalem question was not dealt with, and urged him "to walk away" from the Camp David negotiations if faced with that outcome. Democrats responded angrily to what they portrayed as Republican meddling in the delicate negotiations under way at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., aimed at reaching a final settlement in the 52-year Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Manchester Guardian reported July 13.
HASTERT HIRES CHINA LOBBYIST. Republican propagandists are upset that House Speaker Dennis Hastert hired a lobbyist for a Chinese company linked to Beijing's communist leadership to be his new senior adviser for foreign policy and defense matters, Insight Magazine reported July 14. The hiring of Nancy Dorn, a former aide to Presidents Reagan and Bush and lately a registered agent for, among others, Hutchison Port Holdings, with ties to the Chinese military, undermines GOP efforts to link Vice President Al Gore with Beijing. Republicans reportedly were furious not only because Dorn sold her services to China but because she also represented Pakistan when the GOP is trying to court the large Indian-American community.
In related news, the Associated Press reported July 14 that an appeals court panel dominated by Republicans approved the effort to withhold documents from a Justice Department investigation of fund-raising by former GOP chairman Haley Barbour. A grand jury in 1997 sought information on efforts by Barbour and others to arrange a loan guarantee from a Hong Kong businessman to help their efforts in the final days of the 1994 election. A trial judge reviewed the documents and concluded there was evidence of a crime but the appeals court agreed with the Republicans that the papers were protected by attorney client confidentiality.
INSPECTORS: NEW RULES LOWER FOOD STANDARDS. Federal meat inspectors and consumer groups are protesting new rules that reclassify animal carcasses with cancers, tumors and open sores as safe for human consumption, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported July 17. "I don't want to eat pus from a chicken that has pneumonia; I think it's gross," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project. "Most Americans don't want to eat this sort of contamination in their meals." Delmer Jones, a federal food inspector for 41 years who lives in Renlap, Ala., said he's so revolted by the lowering of food wholesomeness standards that he doesn't buy meat at the supermarket any more because he doesn't trust that it is safe to eat. Jones is president of the National Joint Council of Meat Inspection Locals, a union of 7,000 meat inspectors nationwide affiliated with the American Federation of Government Employees.
The union is battling Department of Agriculture plans to rely on scientific testing of samples of butchered meats to determine its wholesomeness, rather than traditional item-by-item scrutiny by federal inspectors. A 1959 federal law requires USDA inspectors to check all slaughtered animals before they can be sold for human consumption but USDA in 1998 reclassified an array of animal diseases as not presenting a direct public health risk and allowed the butchers to simply cut out the lesions and pass unaffected portions. In October USDA started a pilot program in 24 slaughter houses with inspectors monitoring testing done by plant employees. Jones and consumer groups say production lines are moving so fast that they can't catch all the diseased carcasses, and some are ending up on supermarket shelves. USDA extended until Aug. 29 the time for the public to comment on the regulations and won't issue final rules until after the comments are received.
ITALY FORGIVES DEBT. Breaking ranks with its wealthy peers, Italy pledged July 14 to forgive $4 billion to $6 billion in debt owed by 62 impoverished countries over the next three years under easier terms than those set by other leading industrial democracies, the Los Angeles Times reported. The initiative, approved by Parliament without dissent, strengthened Italy's proposal for a similar write-off by its rich European neighbors, plus Japan, Canada and the United States. Debt relief is the goal of a growing worldwide movement that includes Pope John Paul II, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and an array of star entertainers. President Clinton and other leaders endorsed the idea at their summit a year ago but required the nations to adopt free-market reforms such as privatizing state property and maximizing exports of marketable commodities. The new Italian law offers debt relief to poor countries that agree only to respect civil liberties, renounce war as a means of resolving conflict, and use their freed-up resources on health, education and reducing poverty.
The US House on July 12 rejected an amendment to the foreign aid bill that would have added $390 million over the next two years for debt relief. The bill as it stands would provide $82 million for debt, including $12.6 million for environmental debt relief and $69 million for the general debt relief of $435 million requested by the administration for debt relief for 40 of the world's poorest countries.
WAL-MART STIFLES UNION. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union criticized legal maneuvers Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, pulled to stall a union election at the New Castle, Pa., Supercenter. Employees in the Tire & Lube Express department filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board on June 13, 2000 seeking to affiliate with UFCW) Local 880. Wal-Mart challenged the workers' petition, causing unnecessary hearings and delays before the workers have a chance to vote in a union election. This is a typical Wal-Mart delay tactic. The Labor Board has already certified unionization efforts in separate departments such as the meat department in a Wal-Mart Supercenter and auto departments at other department stores like Sears. In February, meat department workers at Wal-Mart's Jacksonville, Texas, store voted for union representation with UFCW Local 540, and are demanding that the company obey the law, respect their choice and begin immediate good-faith bargaining. Meat department workers in Palestine, Texas, filed numerous charges with the NLRB for the company's federal labor law violations during their union election campaign in May 2000.
COURT UPHOLDS DETROIT UNIONBUSTING. A Republican-dominated federal appeals court in Washington ruled July 7 that Detroit's daily newspapers did not commit unfair labor practices leading to the 19-month strike that began in 1995. The three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals overturned a 1998 National Labor Relations Board finding that could have required the Detroit News, the Detroit Free Press and their joint business agency, Detroit Newspapers Inc., to pay millions in wages and benefits to striking workers retroactive to the day in 1997 when they agreed to return to work. The unions will appeal to the full appeals court and then to the Supreme Court if necessary, Lou Mleczko, president of the Newspaper Guild of Detroit, Local 22, told the Associated Press. Six union locals representing about 2,500 workers walked out in 1995 after the News imposed merit pay and television assignments and refused to give the union requested information about the proposals. The unions offered to return to their jobs and end the walkout in 1997. The newspapers accepted the offer five days later, but insisted on retaining their 1,200 replacement workers, and called the striking employees back to work only as jobs became available. A union boycott of the News, owned by Gannett Co., and the Free Press, owned by Knight Ridder, has cut circulation of the two papers by one-third but after losing $100 million during the strike the newspaper agency's profits have returned to pre-strike levels of $60 million to $70 million, analysts told the New York Times.